Home Affairs relies on false information?
The figure of 30 000 children trafficked annually was used by Home Affairs to justify the implementation on new visa regulations, which make it necessary for parents travelling with a child to have an unabridged birth certificate. (For more information on the visa regulations, click here)
Haniff Hoosen, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of Home Affairs, revealed that he raised the questions of the accuracy of these statistics in parliament, after his own research showed that the claim that 30 000 children are trafficked in South Africa annually were incorrect.
“When I did my own research I discovered that that 30 000 figure was a claim made by an NGO in South Africa, and when that person was challenged by a journalist, she then claimed she was misquoted and she said 30 000 in the world and not in South Africa. I challenged the department to show us evidence that there is 30 000 children being trafficked annually, and they could not produce that evidence,” explained Hoosen.
He added: “It is unfortunate that the department operated on the basis of an incorrect headline in a newspaper which very clearly read 30 000 children annually trafficked through South Africa. And the department went into panic mode based on that and introduced the unabridged birth certificate without conducting their own research. And yet the question that I filed produced the very figures that they could have checked before introducing the requirement and making such a claim.”
While more current human trafficking and children trafficking figures are not available, a report by Africa Check noted that “the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had found eight cases of trafficking from South Africa between 2004 and 2008.”
According to a 2013 article by Africa Check, the claim that 30 000 children are trafficked into and out of Africa is refuted, stating that these figures are “exaggerated and unsubstantiated.”
It said: “There is need for real, reliable data to enable the implementation of government policies and the proper allocation of resources to combat genuine cases of human trafficking.”
According to statistics from a 2014 United Nations report on human trafficking, 33% of victims of human trafficking between 2010 and 2012 were children. Of the people trafficked into and out of Africa and the Middle East, 62% of these are children, with two out of three victims being girls.
The report indicates that child trafficking is most commonly reported in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in regions where child soldiers are used, compared to North America and the Middle East, where most victims of human trafficking are adults.
In response to questions posed by the DA in parliament, it received a response indicating that in 2013/2014 there were 18 recorded cases of child trafficking into or out of South Africa, while in 2014/2015 a Mozambican child was rescued in KwaZulu-Natal, and a Zambian girl was saved in Gauteng earlier this year.
While child trafficking is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, Hoosen pointed out that it is not to the extent that Home Affairs has made it out to be.
“The department is relying on false information to justify the introduction of a draconian legislation when it is actually not needed. While the rest of the world is making it easier for people to travel, for tourists to travel in and out of their countries, South Africa is doing the complete opposite, and it’s just absolute nonsense,” said Hoosen.
Officials at airports and at the borders into South Africa have been informed that they are not to allow children into the country unless they have an unabridged birth certificate, and any necessary letters from parents giving permission for the children to enter or exit South Africa.
Hoosen highlighted that there have already been cases where tourists are denied entry into South Africa for not having the required documentation.
He stated: “I have filed a question, I am waiting for a formal response, but what I can tell you is on a daily basis I get a number of queries from members of the public.”
According to Hoosen, the new visa regulations present a hassle and inconvenience to tourists wishing to come to South Africa.
“It is not going to have any positive impact on out tourism industry, but neither is it going to be much of a preventative measure, because you are trying to prevent something that exists, and there are many other ways of dealing with child trafficking instead of introducing unabridged birth certificates.”
To better combat the problem of child trafficking, Hoosen highlighted that South Africa’s criminal system needs to change.
“What South Africa needs to do is make sure that its criminal systems are linked with international policing systems all over the world, because if a child goes missing in Cape Town, the parents will report it to the police. [If] that information gets logged on to the movement control system at ports of entry, [it] will be able to detect if that child is leaving the country.”
In addition to this, South Africa also needs to connect its systems with those of other countries, which will make is easier to identify criminals or missing children who are being brought into or taken out of a country illegally.
For more information on the impact of the new visa regulations on tourism, click here.